Since its introduction in 2006, Adobe Lightroom has become one of the most used software programs by photographers the world over. At its core, Lightroom combines three different functions in one seamless package. Once familiar with its interface and unique features, you will be able to use it for almost all photo related needs.
Lightroom 3: three functions, one seamless package
First, Lightroom is a digital image management software. It allows you to import, keyword, store, catalog and organize your digital files efficiently.
Secondly Lightroom is an image manipulation and editing program with effective processing tools to easily tune color, adjust contrast and sharpness, convert images to black-and-white, reduce noise, batch process multiple images and a whole lot more.
And finally Lightroom is a publishing and presentation tool used to create slideshows, prepare files for printing or quickly publish files to an online service such as Flickr, Picasa or Facebook.
Lightroom works with both RAW and JPEG files and can be further customized by adding plugins. Plug-ins are add-ons usually developed by third parties that add additional effects, filters and functions to the program.
The Adobe Lightroom interface
The main Lightroom interface consists of Modules and Panels. There are five main Modules: Library, Develop, Slideshow, Print and Web. Each Module has its own assortment of Panels and each has different functions.
Now let’s look at some of the key features of each module.
Library Module – This is the digital asset management feature of Lightroom. When you are importing images in to Lightroom you can define the location and also add keywords to your images. Images can be found using the traditional folder navigation system as well as using Collections (a virtual folder system). You can sort, create copies of, rate, color code and keyword images and view them as a grid or one image at a time. Once you make changes to the images you can publish them directly from the Library to different web services such as Flickr, Picasa, SmugMug and Facebook.
Develop Module – This is the image manipulation function. You can use various tools (crop, clone, brush, graduated filter) for local changes and also use different sliders (temperature, exposure, brightness, color saturation, clarity, contrast and many more) for general image-wide changes. Lightroom also has panels for Tone curve, Color, Split toning, Detail, Lens correction and a separate panel for Effects each with their own set of tools.
Changes can be applied to one image or a batch of images. You can also save a certain treatment as a Preset, which you can use later when processing other photos. This can save a lot of time to especially if you have many images that need to be processed in a certain way (e.g.: changing the color temperature or converting a batch of photos to black-and-white). You can also install presets into Lightroom and there are a ton of free presets on the internet created and shared by other photographers.
One of the key features of Lightroom is that all the changes are done non-destructively. What this means is that your original file is not altered. All the changes live inside the Lightroom catalog and will only be applied when you Export an image.
Slideshow/Print/Web modules – These modules represent the image publishing and presentation aspect of Lightroom. You can create customizable slideshows, prepare images for printing and create galleries which you can use for your website. You can add a watermark, an Identity plate (similar to a logo) or use a Printing Package (similar to Presets in the Develop module) to create collages.